In a letter to European friends, my eleven year old was summing up what had happened in her world since our summer visit. Reading it was staggering to me. Between comments on volleyball and robotics, she tucked in Hurricane Harvey and Irma that directly affected our lives and communities, but then she went on to casually mention the Las Vegas massacre, the Texas church shootings, and terror attacks in New York City.
Everything from Facebook’s Year in Review to TIME’s Person of the Year are reminding us just how painful 2017 has been for people in all walks of life globally and here at home. But alongside the institutional acknowledgement of the past year’s darkness, I noticed a different form of public statement appearing all over my neighborhood: lights.
There are always people a little more eager than most of us to cover everything in tensile, but this year Christmas decorations popped up in early November as if we all collectively embraced the fact that we’re desperately in need of hope. Undoubtedly, the past year is one I’m looking forward to shedding and I don’t think I’m alone. The year 2017 seems to have created a communal desire for light, joy, and peace in all spaces of our lives. Just look at our front yards.
Hope is nurtured when we can recall the peace of mind we once attained, and regard it as real, at least as real as our most troubled and anxious state.
I find myself turning off the news in the car and eagerly chatting to my four year old about the gift of Christmas, going out of our way to serve others and gathering around our Advent candles. The year 2017 is a reminder of the reality of our world, the ugly state of the human heart and our inability to redeem ourselves. Like a joyous shepherd I will be flocking to sacred spaces this year desperate for a divine touch of hope.
In our house, my husband has created a unique tradition, watching every version of A Christmas Carol we can get our hands on. I’ve been known to roll my eyes at the constant barrage of Bah Humbugs, but this year I see it with new eyes.
Scrooge’s heart is reshaped when he sees the painful state of the world and the kindness that others have shown him. Christmas becomes a battle cry to care for humanity and accept the love and redemption we don’t deserve. This year more than ever I feel the need to “keep Christmas in my heart.”
Celebrating Christmas can be a controversial stance for corporations, and in years past I’ve been frustrated by its overt commercialism. Unlike other years, I will be looking at any form of holiday celebration as a communal cry for hope. Holiday cups of coffee, middle school concerts, letters to Santa, Christmas jammies, teachers’ gifts, bell ringers and red buckets, overpriced holiday experiences, ugly sweater parties, white elephant gifts, beautiful families smiling from stacks of perfect paper cards, all the things that can make a mother hyperventilate and bring out my inner Grinch. This year I’m cherishing every expression of Christmas. I’m embracing and proclaiming it back into the world.
Cover image by Bob Ricca.